PHOENIX — A few observations from Thunder-Suns.
* Kevin Durant is long and athletic enough to get his shot over pretty much any smaller defender no matter how good he is. Raja Bell was no match for Durant tonight. Bell’s best bet was trying to prevent KD from getting the ball and playing up when he did. Against lankier defenders like Josh Smith and Tayshaun Prince, KD might have a tougher time simply rising over the defender for jumpers.
* Injury update on Durant, who was icing the side of his head in the first quarter: “I tried to step in front of Shaq and he raised his hand and his elbow hit me in the back of my head,” Durant said. “It was just a little something. It’s all right, though.”
* Jeff Green was as aggressive and athletic as I’ve seen this preseason. He attacked the rim tonight and for the first time looked comfortable looking for his own offense while playing alongside Durant. He came up with the monster block on Matt Barnes that led to a 2-on-1 break and ended with Durant tossing a pretty alley-oop pass to Westbrook.
* Injury update on Green, who left the game near the end of the first half after the big rejection: “(My thumb) just got caught up in the backboard,” Green said. “The nail got cut off and it kind of split off and had a bad cut. But it’s cool now.”
* Russell Westbrook is turning heads around the league. I sat in between several scouts tonight who were impressed with the rookie, and media members were speaking highly of him in the press room after the game as well.
* Desmond Mason’s shot looks much improved.
* John Lucas looked much more confident after surviving cut day. It was shocking to see him go right at Steve Nash.
* The defense looks great at times and terrible at other times. On one possession the Thunder will help, rotate, collapse and make things tough. On the next, opponents get to the basket without any resistance. Once they become consistent on defense and sustain those good stretches they’ll start to take off.
* This team needs a shooter.
* Carlesimo was disappointed in Durant and Green’s efforts and made sure to vaguely mention them several times in his postgame : “We made too many mental mistakes,” Carlesimo said. “We’ve got returning guys that were in the wrong place, in the wrong defense. We just can’t do that. We just made too many mental mistakes. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.”
* Write it down, missed free throws will be a problem this season. The Thunder made 20 of 30 or 66.7 percent.
* We still haven’t seen extended minutes from this team’s projected rotation. When we do, it’s looking like there will be plenty of exciting stretches this season.
* Chris Wilcox sounded like he will sit out Friday’s game against the Lakers. He responded in a jokingly “Uh, we’ll see. I don’t know” manner when I asked him after the game.
* Johan Petro was solid once again with 17 points and five boards. He’s talked about consistency being his biggest weakness, so I want to see how he handles the pressure of the regular season.